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Column: Selfishly, helplessly dreaming B1G

Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013 23:12

Sitting in the press box for the football game against Rutgers on Nov. 30, I found it difficult to handle what I was watching.

There was nothing wrong with what UConn was doing. We all have to give a lot of credit to that team for working as hard as they have to right the ship since an awful start to the 2013 season, and they ended the year playing their best football in a long time.

It was Rutgers that baffled me. That is not a good program. They have had decent seasons and Ray Rice, but nothing that sticks out, and it is not like that is different than any of the school’s other athletics. This Rutgers football team is typical Rutgers.

But apparently that is worthy of a spot in the Big Ten Conference.

Next time the Scarlet Knights take the field during the regular season, there will be a giant Big Ten logo where an American Athletic Conference one is supposed to be.

Gotta love that Rutgers domination in the New York market, right?

I apologize to anyone that may have heard me try to convince someone that the American was going to be a decent conference.

It is not a good conference, and it never will be a good conference.

At least UConn is still part of the Big East, kind of, thanks to field hockey head coach Nancy Stevens and the 2013 national champions, as well as lacrosse.

At least ice hockey is in Hockey East. I cannot wait for next season, when Mike Cavanaugh and his team begin this exciting new chapter in UConn hockey history against the team he coached with for 18 years, Boston College.

But when I am watching other sports – football, soccer, basketball – I can’t help but feel like a child in the back seat.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

The destination is a power conference. The answer is no, we’re not even on the highway yet, you idiot.

Mom and Dad have tried to get us on the road, but there have been too many roadblocks.

I hope Susan Herbst and Warde Manuel have not given up after the shortcomings with the ACC and the earliest Big Ten pushes.

Luckily, I am feeling optimistic, thanks to a reporter I was speaking to at the Rutgers game, so I am going to try and put a happy thought in your head.

I will graduate in May 2015, and by that time, the reporter I was speaking to thinks that UConn will be nearing a move to the Big Ten, if it has not happened already.

That is optimism at its finest, yes. But there is reason to believe, if only because the American Athletic Conference is where hopes and dreams go to die. No one grows up dreaming of scoring the winning touchdown against Temple. No one even knows what the heck Tulane is.

So in order to get itself in position to play Michigan and Indiana instead, UConn likely needs to join the Association of American Universities. I have no idea what has to be done to make that happen, but my shortsighted philosophy has always been that if Rutgers can do it, so can we.

Renovations may also need to be made to Rentschler Field to accommodate the change to a major conference. One person I spoke to about the idea of joining the Big Ten said that would be insane, as Rentschler would need another 40,000 seats on top of the current 40,000. I disagree; Ryan Field, the home of Northwestern, holds just under 48,000. Byrd Stadium, the home of future Big Ten member Maryland, holds about 52,000. Rentschler is designed to be ready for renovation, so I think that is doable.

UConn may also be a desirable add for the Big Ten if it can convince the school to leave Hockey East. Conferences in hockey are different than other sports because there are fewer teams – less than 60 in Division I – and the Big Ten shook up the landscape when it decided to sponsor hockey itself, helping lead to the end of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, almost like the Big East.

There are a couple down sides for UConn there. First, the Big Ten currently only has six hockey members: Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Minnesota. There are a couple power teams in there, but that would not make up for leaving a conference with Boston College, Notre Dame, Boston University, UMass-Lowell, New Hampshire and Providence, just to name a few.

That leads to the other issue for the hockey program. Next year, Cavanaugh and his team move into a conference that will see them leave New England only to play Notre Dame in Indiana. Six programs are in Massachusetts with the rest in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Play 10 big-time teams in New England and one in Indiana or play six in Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania? Tough one.

Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that being a roadblock, because the rest of the programs would thrive in the Big Ten. Basketball is obviously UConn’s forte, and we have already seen exciting games against Indiana and Maryland this season. The Big Ten is usually a basketball power, and UConn would benefit greatly from playing Michigan State and Wisconsin as opposed to SMU and East Carolina.

Football would probably struggle for a while, but being able to recruit Big Ten-caliber players would go a long way. With the right coach, that could be a big boost for the program.

Soccer and baseball would also see success in the Big Ten. Right now, both play miserable schedules. Big East soccer was the best around until realignment. Getting the chance to move back into a power conference will help Ray Reid’s squad, though he has shown this year that they can compete with the best even with a weaker schedule and less attention.

Baseball currently plays Big Ten schools in February during the early tournaments. Getting the chance to go toe-to-toe all season long would be great for Jim Penders and his program, which is likely going to roll over AAC teams this spring.

Lastly, think of the rivalries. I spoke to someone who works for Indiana at Madison Square Garden who believes UConn-Indiana in all sports would be a dream of a rivalry. Add in Rutgers and Maryland and it could be amazing.

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